The potential of technology to connect people and provide a means of access to education, commerce, employment and entertainment has never been greater or more rapidly changing. Communication technologies and new media promise to break down barriers and expand access for disabled people. Yet it is true that this same technology can create unexpected and unnoticed forms of social exclusion for the disability society. (Goggin and Newell, 2003) Before I get into this topic of technology and the different sides I am going to talk let me describe this term.
Technology is often characterized as liberating and encouraging for social, education and physical barriers and helps allow full participation in one’s society. (Newell, 2003) Technology, for instance, privileges particular ways of being involved in the so-called, “ normative”, when dealing with the social, cultural and economic practices. (Ellis and Kent, 2011) After reading this is my point of technology being designed in ways that reflect and taken-for-granted ideas and theory’s, as what is constitutes as normal.Instead of eliminating disability, technology often creates new dimensions of disability. In electronic forms, for instance, disability disclosure shifts in unpredictable ways, as dose what is considered an obvious (or visible) disability. (Goggin and Newell, 2003) I follow my new found information with a perfect example that one can think about. In a virtual classroom environment a student with dyslexia might find that disclosure will be unavoidable, whereas a wheelchair user will have to consciously decide if he or she wants to disclose their disability to their on-line classmates or instructors.
Although what are perceived to be obvious or visible disabilities shift in on-line context, the idea of norm or normalcy remains in place. (Ellis and Kent, 2011) Despite calling into question the relevance of physical appearance and differences, in practice virtual worlds continue to privilege the able body by conforming to the social realities and norms of the non-virtual world. In fact, the reproduction of the non-virtual world into the virtual world highlights the ways the normalcy and being able to operate as a compulsory system that feels the need to be replicated.(Goggin and Newell, 2003) Through this view of technology we enforce normalcy at the same time we fail to acknowledge normalcy as a fictional and unstable category, meaning unattainable.
All people serve as a dependent with one another as they do with technology. Postmodernist and modernist say that, “The dismodern era ushers in the concept that difference is what all of us have in common. That identity is not fixed but malleable. That technology is not separate but part of the body.
That dependence, not individual independence, is the rule.” (Sheldon, 2004) As we can see communication changes and shapes our lives and the style in which we live in. Communication is key to many relationships and that being the relationship and understanding into the world of disabilities.
Although virtual worlds offer much potential for disability-based consciousness raising and politicization (Ellis and Kent, 2011), they also pose negative and accessibility challenges to many users with disabilities. For example many popular forms that I use daily fail to meet accessibility guidelines such as, Twitter and Facebook.These among many more are inaccessible, particularly for blind or visually impaired users. In the end we have barley scratched the surface in terms of thinking about web accessibility for individuals with cognitive disabilities. (Braddock, Rissolo and Thomas, 2004) Given that disabled people have one of the lowest rates of education and highest rates of unemployment, as social networking sites continue to become a part of our daily live, so too dose the cost of exclusion from these contexts, whether that exclusion is based on social, educational, economic or technological barriers.Despite these and other aspects of inaccessibility, the belief that technologies are liberating for their projected user is a very difficult idea to dislodge.
This thought or idea is so powerful it is perceived power of technology that coverage of disabled athletes, for instance, often leads to question about whether technologies create an unfair advantage to disabled athletes.These stories often pivot on the uneasy notion that technology will not simply ameliorate impairment but that the techno-body, if unrestrained, might actually surpass human capacity. (Goggin and Newell, 2003) In a New York Times article in 2008 focused on whether South American runner Oscar Pistorius should be allowed to compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. This is what reporter asked: “ Do prosthetic legs simply level the playing field for Pistorius, compensating for his disability, or do they give him an inequitable edge via what some call techno-doping? (Longman, 2008)This is what the response was from the director of development for the I. A. A. F: “With all due respect we cannot accept something that provides advantages, urging pistorius to concentrate on the Paralympics that will follow the Olympics.
Pistorius lastly states, “It affects the purity of sport. Next will be another device where people can fly with something on their back. ” (Longman, 2007) After reading this shocking news I came across some readings and in the end to many people (society) voiced a concern that Pistorius prosthetics will pose a danger to him or to other runners.Although technology can be seen as eliminating barriers to this athlete’s position, has the idea behind it that this athlete is too good or too dangerous to compete with his non-disabled peers and that he was forced into the Paralympics.
Here as we can see social barriers ensure exclusion even after physical barriers were transcended. (Clarey, 2011) Technology as a cultural practice we highlight ways that it privileges particular ways of being which are reflected and combined with social, cultural, and economics, practices, and further implementing technology.Many of the questions that arise are not so much the technology but the political aspects. With this in mind the popular piece of technology known as the Kindle shows a great example. The Kindle or more updated version know as Kindle Fire was made with many accessible features for both blind users as well as individuals with other print and learning disabilities.
Yet, the actual user interface of the Kindle was inaccessible to these users. Kindle was never designed with users with disabilities in mind.Instead, the inclusion of this functionality was presumably included to provide a talking interface for mobile users, people that like to talk and drive making non-disabled people first thought. (Sheldon, 2004) The push for technological answers to inaccessibility and represents a shift from the responsibility of society to remove barriers to full participation in society.
This will require individuals with disabilities to submit to a technological “fix”. (Sheldon, 2004) Individuals are compelled to reply on technology to approximate able body norms rather than push the bounders of what is considered normal.(Sheldon, 2004) I would think that with this type of thinking it would also ensure that there is technology designed for presumed non-disabled people.
I say that we would all agree that social inclusion must be a key consideration when technology is developed. When we think of technology and disability we need to know understand that there are two visions, accessible and assistive. By offering the accessible technology as opposed to the assistive it will promote thinking about technology for people rather than for disability.I think we should be talking about technology as a global, accessible and inclusive concept. This should not be based on whom it’s for.
Accessibility in terms is about ensuring access to online or digital information by making specifically accommodations for particular disabilities or more specifically to the types of individuals with disabilities would presumably use. (Sheldon, 2004) A recent survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, reported that only 54% of adults living with a disability use the internet, compared with 81% of adults who do not identify as disabled.(Fox, 2011) Assistive technology routinely operates from a deficit-based, medical model orientation.
(Goggin and Newell, 2003) Thinking about disability with the context of technology provides a useful lens for understanding issues of identify and exclusion. As a result of medical model thinking, technology often carries very different social meanings depending on the assumed user of the technology. (Roulstone, 1998) The last topic that I wanted to talk about was the different looks and how appealing different technology can be and the impact it has to society.For example technology designed for use by disabled people often look like they were designed for children or carry other markers that carry signify disability in some way. (Ellis and Kent, 2011) While mass-market technologies have consistently become more “stylish and have the cool factor”. (Ellis and Kent, 2011) In comparison to the assistive type of phone more commonly known for example an iphone, has become a fashion accessory.
Despite their versatility these technology are not marked by what we’d call the “Speak and Spell effect”.(Goggin and Newell, 2003) This example illustrates that assistive technology is not designed in the same way that ass-market technology is designed. Where as, mass-market technologies are typically designed for broad (non-disabled) audiences. Assistive technology is designed around assumption about disabilities and disabled users that may or may not be accurate. (Sheldon, 2004) In conclusion I think that rather than looking at and designing technology around impairment or relying on a retrofit model, we argue and keep in mind that people’s relationship to technology must be understood in a large social and cultural context.
Instead of trying to focus more attention on technology for non-disabled people, the assistive side of things (people with disabilities) should be provided with technology just as “cool” and should not be segregated to any one particular market. Disability should be seen in all aspects as something that is masked or packaged into a preconceived notion of what people who have a disability look/act like. When talking about the technological side of disability one should view this as a useful aspect of complexity that should be embraced, honored, and celebrated.This then could open many door and a give our society a better insight to innovation.
Accessible and inclusive technology is more than just seeing the bigger picture, it’s also about keeping the mind set open to all the factors that play a part globally. We must consider that disabled people will always be users of any and all technologies, and that it is the responsibility of technology designers and makers to consider access and not assume access will be fit into later. Resources and References: Foley, A.
& Ferri, B. Syracuse Univeristy (2012). Technology for People, not disabilities: ensuring access and inclusion.JORSEN Jornal of Research in Special Educational Needs V12 N4.
Ellis, K. & Kent, M. (2011) Disability and New Media. New York:Routledge.
Goggin, G. & Newell, C. (2003) Digital Disability:The Social Construction of Disability in New Media.
Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Sheldon, A. (2004) Changing technology.
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